Choo Signing Gives Rangers a Great Hand of Cards
Merry Christmas, Rangers fans. You have a lineup for 2014.
Kudos to Jon Daniels for doing the opposite of what he did last winter and having a sense of urgency to get something done. He wasn’t hasty. He wasn’t impatient. Daniels played this winter like Michael McDermott waiting out Teddy KGB in his own underground poker room for the big pot (you won’t find it in the yellow pages).
The Rangers came to terms with Shin-Soo Choo over the weekend, a move that improves the 25-man roster, both in the field and in the lineup. The move should be made official this week, just in time for Santa to deliver some baseball hope to Rangers fans.
Choo is destined to be the team’s lead-off hitter, who is also a dependable defensive corner outfielder. He finished fourth in MLB last season with on-base percentage at .423, adding in 21 home runs, 20 stolen bases and 54 RBI. He was hit-by-pitch a whopping 26 times, leading MLB.
Choo creates a positive domino effect on the line-up for Ron Washington. Before Choo became a Ranger, it looked possibly like Leonys Martin would take the role of lead-off hitter. Not that Martin would be horrible; we simply would not know how he would be in that role until he actually did it. Unknowns are not fun in the world of sports, especially for managers.
Instead, Choo grabs the No. 1 spot in the batting order, just in front of Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder and Alex Rios. Notice who is in the middle of that grouping in the No. 3 hole? Beltre now has some tremendous protection around him; something missing from 2013.
Now imagine what happens to this line-up should Martin show the capability to lead-off at times. Now that unknown becomes something to play with.
Did you know that the Rangers were 59-17 last season when they scored first? The problem – that’s only about half of the games on the season. Just think – had they been able to score first about 10 more times in 2013, it would probably have put them in the playoffs.
The bottom line – the addition of Choo and Fielder give this team more pop in the top two-thirds of the line-up, giving them a better chance to score first and turn things over to (what should be) a dependable pitching staff.
The line-up has balance too, with a good mix of left-handed and right-handed batters. OK, the right-handed power might be lacking a bit, especially with the departure of Nelson Cruz, but the overall balance will help Texas in the long run.
Seven years is a long contract for Choo, but with a weak outlook for the free agent outfielders next winter, this move is a good one. He’s 31-years-old and should give Texas some real dividends over the next five years, at least.
Are the Rangers done? I imagine they’ll make a tweak or two to the lineup. Another player who can play outfield and a little first base would be nice, but it probably won’t be a front-line free agent. Who knows? They may event talk with Michael Young about a utility role on this team.
Rangers pitchers and catchers report to Surprise, Arizona, on February 16. Like Matt Damon’s character in Rounders, hopefully Daniels just flopped a nut-straight with his moves this winter.